England, is the southern, largest and far the most populous portion of Great Britain. In shape it forms an irregular triangle, of which the eastern side measures in a straight line 350 miles, the southern 325 miles, the western 425; but its shores are so deeply cut by bays as to make the coast-line longer in proportion to the size of the land than in any other country save Scotland and Greece.
England has for hundreds of years been one of the leading powers of Europe, but her area is small. England, without Wales, covers 50,222 square miles, about the size of Rumania, less than a fourth of France or Germany, and but little larger than New York state. Twenty-nine states are each larger than England; several indeed are larger than the entire United Kingdom. England owes her name to the Engles or Angles, who, with the kindred Jutes and Saxons, conquered the greater part of what had been known as Albion or Britain.
England's climate is milder on the whole than that of any region as far north. The northwest is mountainous and hilly, the east and south mainly a plain crossed by lines of low hills. It is much more fertile than Scotland or Ireland, for 80 per cent, of its area is productive. It is very rich in coal and iron. The English are made up of many races. A non-Aryan race, perhaps Euskarian, inhabited the country before the Celts, who conquered them and intermarried with them. The Roman armies brought settlers with them — Gauls, Germans, Iberians, Italians, Dacians, Phrygians and the other races which made up the legions of the empire. Then came the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, followed by the Danes and Norman-French.
Out of these various stocks a well-marked race has been formed, self-reliant, prompt to defend its rights, daring, hard-working and ambitious, which has given its language and, in part, its institutions to 250,000,000 of the world's people. England became the headquarters of machine-making of all kinds, of steam-power, of commerce, navigation and shipping; but she was not the first of European states to start in the race of commerce. Long after France, Flanders and parts of Germany were great manufacturing centers, England was a fanning and wool-producing country.
Agriculture was at its height in the reign of George II, when the agricultural wealth of the United Kingdom was $2,905,000,000, and made «p half the wealth of the nation. At present (1911) the yearly imports of the United Kingdom are over $3,400,000,000, in order of value as follows: Grain, including potatoes, raw cotton, manufactures, meat, wool, sugar, dairy-products, tea and coffee, timber, minerals, wines and spirits, flax and jute, raw silk. The yearly exports reach over $2,700,000,000, in order of value: Cotton-goods, iron, woolen-goods, machinery, coal, linen, jute goods, metals other than iron, cutlery, silken goods. The shipping of the United Kingdom is 42 per cent, of that of the world, while its wealth is put down at $46,140,000,000.
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Caesar's raid into Britannia, in 55 B. C., was followed by the Roman conquest; but the history of England do©s not properly begin till the 5th century, when the Teutonic tribes which have giv&n the nation its name gained a foothold on the island. Before 600 A. D., Saxons and Angles had made settlements as far north as the Forth, and the many princedoms had merged into the two rival powers, Northumbria and Kent, while a third, destined to devour the other two, was Wessex to the south. Long before England became one nation, its people were united by belonging to a single Christian church.
The marriage of the king of Kent with a Prankish princess gave an opportunity for Augustine and his fellow-missionaries to land in 596; and the marriage of a Kentish princess with Edwin of Northumbria carried Christianity from Canterbury to York. In 802 Egbert, who had learned at the court of Charlemagne how to conquer, became king of Wessex, and brought all England under his power as far north as the Dee. The Danes, as robbers, then as settlers and lastly as conquerors, harried the Saxons for 200 years after the death of Egbert Alfred, fey surrendering the north and east of England to be held as vassals of the Saxon king, secured the supremacy of Wessex.
The reign of Edgar the Peaceful and the government of his great minister, Dunstan, closed the period of Saxon greatness. By 1012 the Danes had triumphed, and Sweyn, the leader of the invaders, was in fact king ©f England. Under his son, Canute, England was in some respects the head of a Scandinavian empire. But his two sons were weak, and with the aid of Godwin, the powerful earl of Wessex, Edward the Confessor re-established the Saxon line. On the death of Edward, Godwin's son Harold was recognized as the ablest man in the kingdom, and was chosen king. His banished brother, Tostig, was defeated at Stamford Bridge, but three days later Harold was himself defeated and slain in the battle of Senlac, near Hastings, by William the Conqueror, Oct. 14, 1066. With William began England's connection with the continent and the bringing in of feudalism. The Norman kings, when their time was not taken up by foreign wars, were occupied by strengthening against the nobles and the church the powerful monarchy founded by William.
Though the enormous power wielded by the Norman line was of great use to the nation in checking the barons, who were the oppressors of the serfs, its evils were seen when it came into the hands of boastful, tyrannical and weak King John. Disgraced in the eyes of all England by his allowing himself to be stripped of all his French possessions and by being excommunicated and deposed by the pope, the mobility appeared as the true leaders of the nation and wrung from the humbled king that great charter which secured the foundations of the future liberty of England. To make the charter a reality and secure the orderly growth of these liberties was the work of the great King Edward I.
The attempt of Henry III to disregard Magna Charta caused the successful rebellion headed by Simon de Montfort. But in the reign of Edward I a parliament assembled (1295), and the principle that where all were concerned all should have a voice was acknowledged. Great powers were Jeft to the king, but Parliament was armed with the right to tax, and steadily increased its grip on affairs till, at the close of Edward Ill's reign, it could impeach the ministry. Richard II's unwise claim to the sole power of the crown brought on the revolution that closed the struggle, and Henry IV came to the throne as the choice of Parliament, while the council named by Parliament became, in fact, a body of national ministers. Edward I died before he had finished the conquest of Scotland, and his weaker son, Edward II, had been badly defeated by the Scots at Bannockburn.
Edward Ill's attempts to make himself king of France were mere raids of no lasting value, except so far as the life of the peasant-soldier helped to free the lower orders from serfdom. The French wars of Henry V were much more successful than those of Edward III, and the union of the two kingdoms seemed to be promised when the great king died. The manhood of Henry VI ushered in the Wars of the Roses between the two branches of the Plantagenets, the houses of Lancaster and York. The Yorkists won, and the powerful and despotic Edward IV ruled with a strong hand, and Parliament in his reign had little power. But his successor, Richard III, made himself hated by all classes of the people, and the battle of Bosworth put on the throne Henry VII, the first of the Tudors, who acknowledged that he was king by the will of the people.
In Henry VIII determination to have his own will was blended with a real desire for the well-being of his people. Driven by his passion for Anne Boleyn, Henry demanded a divorce from his Spanish wife, and the opposition of the pope brought to a crisis in England the Reformation, which had been smouldering since the days of Wiclif. But Henry's zeal as a reformer overshot the mark, and it was with a general feeling in her favor that Mary, the champion of the old faith, ascended the throne.
Unfortunately, she allied herself too closely to Spain, and it seemed likely that England might become a Spanish dependency. So when Elizabeth came to the throne, Protestantism and national independence were linked together as one cause; and she, as well as Mary, was at first supported by the bulk of the nation. Her great minister, Lord William Cecil, played such an able part that, without openly defying the great Catholic powers, she came to be looked to at home and abroad as the champion of Protestantism; and the strength of the nation was built up till it could drive from the coasts of England the Spanish Armada.
On the death of the queen the crown passed to the Scottish king. James I came to the throne more by right of inheritance than by choice of Parliament. His title was declared to be by divine right, as it was then called, but he was used to Scotch, not to English, ideas of the rights of the crown. The rights of Parliament had been decided when the house of Lancaster was on the throne, but now had to be fought for all over with the house of Stuart. The struggle came to a head under Charles I, from whom was forced the great Petition of Right.
Then followed^the Civil War and the trial and execution of Charles. But Parliament now found itself mastered by the overwhelming ability of Oliver Cromwell, who had been brought to the front as a successful general in the war. He succeeded in raising England to a high place among nations, but on his death and the prospect of a succession of military tyrannies Charles II was asked to be king. At once the struggle between king and Parliament began again; and, though Charles died seemingly triumphant, the want of judgment, little short of blindness, of his brother, James II, in a few years brought things to a head.
Invited by the leaders of the Whig party, William of Orange had but to lead to put an end to the Stuart dynasty and drive James from the country. William was the first parliamentary king; for before power was put in his hands a binding charter set forth the liberties of the country. When the last attempt of the Stuarts to regain the throne was thwarted in 1715, Parliament settled the Hanoverian house upon the throne, and since that time through the reigns of the four Georges, William IV and Victoria, England has had what is called a constitutional government.
It was in the reign of Anne that party-government began. Marlborough did not have complete success in his wars till he found himself supported in 1708 by a ministry all of one party. From that time the ministry, really a committee of the majority of the house of commons and known as the cabinet, has formed a part of the machinery of government. Under Elizabeth England had become a world-power, but not till the Revolution of 1688 did it become a power of the first rank in Europe. Then, under William and Marl-borough, England forced its way to the head of the European nations in the wars against Louis XIV. Under the great Chatham her navy was supreme upon the ocean, and under his greater son, Pitt, English money, English troops and English successes in Spain were the great causes of Napoleon's downfall.
In the 19th century the wars the nation fought were avowedly in the interests of her colonies, while she kept more aloof from the politics of the continent. The most marked thing in the history of the igth century was the rise into greater prominence of the trading, manufacturing and laboring classes, who were given representation in Parliament by the great reform-bill of 1832. Since that time England has been slowly but surely growing into a real democracy. With the decease (May 6, 1910) of King Edward VII, George V succeeded to the throne, and rules over colonies and dependencies of the crown whose area (including that of the United Kingdom) is estimated at 11,894,-opo square miles, with a total population (including that of the United Kingdom— 45»30o,ooo) estimated at 400 millions. The annual value of the imports and exports of the United Kingdom now exceeds 1,257 millions of pounds sterling; while its reputed wealth is close upon 12,000 million pounds sterling.
The percentage of national debt of the kingdom to its wealth is 5 per cent, only. Its navy, consisting of battleships, cruisers and torpedo-vessels, comprises a total of about 597 vessels, manned by 134, ooo officers and men. The value of the exports of merchandise of home-production from England, in the year 1911, was 454 million pounds sterling; her exports, in the same year, of colonial and foreign produce were 102 million pounds in addition. England's exports have, of recent years, shown no vast increase, owing to the increased competition of this country and of Germany, especially in the production of iron and steel, in which the United States is beating her in the world-market. Britain is also exhausting her available coal resources at a rapid rate, though recent official estimates assert that these will last many centuries.
England is divided into 45 counties. Nine cover over 1,000,000 acres each, the largest being York. Seven have a population of over 1,000,000, the largest being London. Her national funded and unfunded debt in 1916 amounted to about 713 million pounds sterling, the annual charge on the budget for which was 28 million pounds. In the new (1910) parliament Great Britain returned 670 members. Population of England and Wales 36,075,269, and that of the United Kingdom is 45,216,741.
See the histories by Green, Freeman, Froude, Stubbs, Lingard, Hume and Macaulay and the Epochs of Modern History series.
The New Student's Reference Work (1914)